BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Dave Dryden, one of the first goaltenders to play for the Buffalo Sabres franchise, and brother of Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden, has died at age 81.

Dryden died Tuesday of complications from chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension surgery, the Kopriva Taylor Community Funeral Home in Oakville, Ontario disclosed.

“The Sabres are mourning the loss of former goaltender Dave Dryden,” the team tweeted Thursday. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Dave’s family during this difficult time.”

Playing in 120 games over four seasons with the Sabres, starting with the team’s inaugural campaign 1970-71, Dryden compiled a 43-45-20 record, placing him 12th all-time in goaltending wins for Buffalo.

In 1971, Dryden had a memorable matchup with the Montreal Canadiens, as Dave and Ken became the first brothers to play in goal for opposing teams. Dave wore his Sabres sweater during the on-ice ceremony for Ken’s number retirement at the Belle Centre in 2007.

Dryden also played for the New York Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks before moving to Buffalo in a cash transaction with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and finished his career with the Edmonton Oilers in 1980, after four seasons playing in the World Hockey Association.

Dryden is remembered for pioneering the modern goalie mask in the mid-1970s, assisting with the design to add a cage to the fiberglass helmet.

“The National Hockey League mourns the recent passing of former goaltender, equipment innovator, educator and philanthropist Dave Dryden,” NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. “Respected and liked by all who were lucky enough to know him, Dryden made contributions to our game beyond his 17 seasons tending goal as a pro in the NHL and WHA — including a memorable game when he and brother, Ken, became the first siblings to play goal against each other in the NHL.

“In the mid-1970s, he reimagined the goalie mask, designing the combination fiberglass helmet and birdcage front that greatly increased protection, transformed the way the position could be played and remains the most popular in use today. After retirement, he worked with the League on refinements to equipment, always focused on better protecting athletes. He also pursued a lengthy post-playing career as an elementary school principal and ran the bed-providing charity Sleeping Children Around the World that his parents founded.

“We send our deepest condolences to Dave’s wife, Sandra, their two children and six grandchildren and all whose lives and careers were improved by his work. And, in his name, the NHL will be making a donation to Sleeping Children Around the World (which provides bed kits to children in developing countries)”


Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.